Traditionally, jazz and blues feels are based on a clear 8th-note triplet subdivision with the primary grooves being the traditional “spang-a-lang” ride cymbal pattern and the shuffle respectively. As drummers we must be able to dial in to the correct subdivision to allow the band to groove. Once that subdivision has been locked in there is room for adjustment, but we must make sure the overall quarter-note tempo does not suffer. “Feel” allows a musician to bend the tempo ever so slightly which, when done correctly, displays ones ability to manipulate time at will (and when appropriate of course).

In this lesson we are taking a look at two entirely different types of tunes that both utilize that “in-between” feel that is so elusive for many younger players.

Lee Morgan’s 1963 “The Sidewinder” features Billy Higgins on drums. The groove that Higgins lays down on this track defines soul/jazz. It is a flattened out jazz-ride pattern with a syncopated, two-bar Latin rhythm under it. Certainly a challenge for any drummer to talk a walk in Mr. Higgins’ shoes, but fun to try!

The next tune is by the amazing NRBQ with the late, great Tom Ardolino  on drums. Ardolino was a master of this feel and could bend notes, bend time, and bend your mind! One thing was certain, the pocket was always solid even though it sometimes sounded as if the entire band was about to fall off of a cliff only to come crashing back down in time. “I Got a Rocket in My Pocket” is the quintessential in between groove if there ever was one.

Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA